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Save Our Rideau
Site Appearance

Graded C

First impressions count particularly when it comes to the visiting public. And it's often the little things that contribute to poor site appearance - peeling paint, spalling concrete, inappropriate vegetative growth - these cumulatively add up to sections of the Rideau being characterized as looking "tired and rundown." There is also Parks Canada's Commemorative Integrity of its heritage landscapes, which includes all the lockstations plus the visual values of the entire 202 km of the Rideau Canal.

The breakwater at the southern entrance to Poonamalie is quite literally falling apart (2016 photo)

Where the Rideau generally does shine are with its landscaped areas (its lawns), with picnic tables providing an inviting environment to the public. If judged on that alone, site appearance would get an A.

But we have many problems. The site appearance includes the heritage landscapes and many of those are either obscured by vegetation (i.e. Jones Falls Dam, Sweeney House viewscapes) or repairs being done with modern materials and styles degrade that heritage landscape (i.e. Jones Falls Quoins, Jones Falls Weir, Poonamalie Minnow Creek Weir). All of these serve to erode the site appearance - the heritage story the site itself can tell. If rated on their own, this would receive a D.

In addition, while we now have big dollars being spent on major repairs to the heritage infrastructure (locks, dams, berms and weirs), a lot of the little stuff continues to be ignored (i.e. Jones Falls road edging, Poonamalie breakwater). Parks Canada seems to be doing the work on an ad hoc basis, there aren't any site management plans - plans for each lockstation that would detail the heritage landscapes, the important elements that need protecting, the viewscapes that should be kept clear. Even an "appearance" plan of each lockstation would be valuable - pick up on the little problems that cumulatively impact on the visitor experience of the site, build in the daily, monthly and yearly maintenance required to properly take care of these.

The weir at Jones Falls was repaired in 2013 using very modern techniques including blinding white cement (compare this to the original early 20th century cement of the bridge). The aluminum steps are far better suited to a modern factory than a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These all serve to detract from the heritage landscape, part of the Commemorative Integrity of the site.

In 2020, the bridge was re-done with a more attractive black railing. However, they still used blinding white modern cement rather than a heritage appropriate cement. In this June 2021 photo, note the giant warning red warning signs that massively detract from any heritage or aesthetic character of this spot.  These are not needed in this location, they are warning signs - appropriate at weirs and dams to keep boats or swimmers from approaching - not appropriate for "in case of emergency" notification to phone 911. And, it would be funny if it wasn't so sad, these giant 'in case of emergency' signs, identify the site as the "Jones Fall Dam". It's not the dam, it's the Jones Falls Weir. The well known dam, is located 110 metres away. Local emergency responders, if told that there was an accident at the Jones Falls Dam would not head to this location.

Who did those signs? Who approved them? It's another example of poor Parks Canada skill sets and public dollars wasted. Later that summer, I was able to take Director David Britton on a tour of Jones Falls (an offer I make to all senior managers) and pointed out this issue to him. He clearly understood the issue I was raising. Those signs were removed sometime later.

And, while they replaced the aluminum railings, installed in 2013, with black railings, the alumimum factory stairs remain.

So while the Rideau Canal is a beautiful place - its site presentation, particularly its heritage features, need much more attention. Hence a rating of C.

This before and after photo of a repair at Jones Falls, shows that while it serves to hold the wall together, it is very disruptive of the heritage landscape. It could have been done much better.

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© 2012- Ken W. Watson